Edward Snowden leaks: NSA amnesty 'considered'

The US National Security Agency is considering offering an amnesty to fugitive US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden if he agrees to stop leaking secret documents, an NSA official says.

The man in charge of assessing the leaks' damage, Richard Ledgett, said he could be open to an amnesty deal.

Disclosures by the fugitive intelligence analyst have revealed the extent of the NSA's spying activity.

But NSA Director Gen Keith Alexander has dismissed the idea.

Mr Ledgett spoke to US television channel CBS about the possibility of an amnesty deal: "So my personal view is, yes it's worth having a conversation about.

"I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high, would be more than just an assertion on his part."

But Gen Alexander, who is retiring early next year, rejected the idea of any amnesty for Mr Snowden.

"This is analogous to a hostage taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10, and then say, 'if you give me full amnesty, I'll let the other 40 go'. What do you do?"

The NSA is trying to be more open about what the agency does with the data it collectsIn an earlier interview with the Reuters news agency, Mr Ledgett said he was deeply worried about highly classified documents not yet public that are among the 1.7 million Mr Snowden is believed to have accessed.

Edward Snowden's disclosures have been "cataclysmic" for the agency, Mr Ledgett told Reuters.

only 1% of files leaked by Mr Snowden had been published by the newspaper.

The state department says its position has not changed and that Mr Snowden must return to the US to face charges, says the BBC's Suzanne Kianpour.

The US has charged Mr Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.

Each of the charges carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

At the weekend, the NSA allowed a CBS television crew into their headquarters for the first time in its history, in an effort to be more open about what the agency does with the data it collects.